- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2000

LIUNA is proud of Arthur A. Coia's work

Arnold Beichman's Feb. 2 commentary, "And he keeps the Ferraris," is one of the most blatantly anti-union propaganda pieces that has ever appeared in The Washington Times. Given your paper's track record on organized labor and its leadership, that's saying quite a lot.

Of course, most of the statements Mr. Beichman makes are dead wrong. For example, the Boston federal court case he refers to involving Arthur A. Coia was a matter that resulted in no loss or detriment to the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). While the case was certainly regrettable, the matter in no way detracts from Coia's lifelong commitment and contributions to the cause of working families.

Additionally, Coia chose to retire from LIUNA after 42 years of service on Dec. 31 and was not "forced out by the U.S. government investigators," as Mr. Beichman contends. Moreover, the "emeritus position" is not something wholly created for Coia, as was implied. Not only has LIUNA awarded the title to past retired officials, but it is not uncommon throughout the labor movement to grant the honor to deserving retired officials. The position provides Coia only with the difference between his pension and his salary as general president.

Coia worked tirelessly as a committed, visionary and dynamic leader of the Laborers' Union. His initiatives in organizing, training and education, health and safety, political action and labor-management cooperation have helped LIUNA to become one of the most democratic, influential and diverse unions in North America.

Moreover, General President Emeritus Coia led our union in developing our innovative and successful internal reform programs, which have been credited by the U.S. government as fair, effective and a model for others to follow.

Just recently, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston praised Coia's leadership in this regard saying he has been "supportive of the reform process from the beginning and in specific cases," and has urged that Coia be given credit "for his substantial assistance to the reform process."

Our union remains proud of Coia's years of dedicated service to LIUNA. Without a doubt, the record will show two things: First, that Coia has helped to create a better life for hundreds of thousands of working men and women; and second, that The Washington Times serves regularly as a highly biased mouthpiece of the extreme antiunion movement.

MICHAEL BEARSE

General council

Laborers' International Union of North

America

Washington

The Times remembers Iraqi leader but forgets the children

For the most part, I am in agreement with the Feb. 8 editorial "Saddam and friends." The Clinton administration is certainly not doing enough to make any real progress with the tragic situation in Iraq. The sanctions have not removed Saddam Hussein and his regime from power, and alternative plans to remove Saddam from power (or a policy of containment without sanctions) should be implemented with alacrity to end the suffering of the Iraqi people. As many people do not know, according to UNICEF, 4,500-5,000 children die each month in Iraq due to the sanctions/ embargo.

In addition, UNICEF and other U.N. agencies estimate that over 1 million civilians, mostly children, have died because of the sanctions. This is deplorable. Women and children are dying daily, and no one seems to care. In fact, former U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq and Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday believes these statistics are conservative and will probably get worse.

I believe The Washington Times and other mainstream media should give at least equal time and consideration to writing about such tragic suffering, but I commend The Times for pointing out the fact that the sanctions have not removed Saddam and his regime from power.

PAUL DEFILIPPES

Washington

'Untrue, reckless and irresponsible' editorial about seat belts

The statement "failure to wear a seat belt has absolutely nothing whatever to do with the safety of others or your ability to handle your vehicle responsibly" is absolute nonsense ("Beyond the pale, etc." Editorial, Feb. 5).

In multiple vehicle crashes, an unbelted driver has a drastically reduced chance of avoiding a second (and third) impact if he is unbelted, because he is often thrown across the seat or stunned by impact with the windshield. The seat belt holds him in place behind the wheel.

This is not theoretical rhetoric. I speak from experience.

I was struck by another car, and my vehicle did a 270-degree spin. I was wearing my seat belt (I'm a retired Navy pilot and won't leave my driveway without buckling up).

After the initial impact, I was headed into oncoming traffic. I had full control of my steering wheel and brakes because my seat belt kept me firmly in driving position. This enabled me to alter my path and come to rest on the shoulder, partway into a ditch, instead of initiating a potential multicar chain collision with oncoming traffic.

The general idea that failure to wear a seat belt does not impact others on the road, and especially the quoted statement above, are untrue, reckless and irresponsible.

The unbelted driver who is unfortunate enough to have an accident is a direct threat to the lives of others. You need to retract that editorial, apologize for your mistake and inform your readers of the facts.

I abhor government interference with any personal choice decision that truly will not harm others. True freedom of personal choice is threatened, however, when the concept is incorrectly applied to issues that do, in fact, impact others.

ROBERT PROCTOR

Cordova, Tenn.

Gen. Musharraf must work for international respect

If Pakistan's newest military strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is so eager to "ensure a fair trial for the officials whose regime he overthrew," as Viola Herms Drath claims in her Op-Ed Feb. 4 column, "A soldier, not a politician," why on the day that trial began did the general order the country's highest-ranking judges to swear allegiance to his 100-day-old regime? The oath, similar to the one ordered by Pakistan's last dictator, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, requires a judge's allegiance to "the provisional order," not to the constitution. Any commentary on nation-building should respect the inviolate nature of a nation's constitution and therefore condemn the general for his actions.

Furthermore, perhaps Miss Drath and the general should not be so quick to see comparisons with Kemal Ataturk's Turkey a nation long rife with human rights abuses, recalcitrant Islamic militants and uncontrollable terrorist elements. The difference is that Turkey, as a result of its geographic importance, has benefited from the international attention of responsible Western coalitions such as NATO, the European Union and the Council of Europe, to help guarantee its path toward becoming a secular and responsible Western power.

However, in the wake of the Cold War, Pakistan's relevance has waned considerably on the world stage. If Gen. Musharraf expects the admiration of his people and the respect of world leaders, he must first deliver on his extensive list of promises and good intentions. Until such time, the Clinton administration should remember that the general holds power, not despite the Islamic terrorists he claims to combat, but because of them.

VANCE HARTKE

Washington

Vance Hartke is a retired U.S. senator.

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